MORE THAN 2,000 CAMPERS and staff members participated in summer programming of the Orthodox Union (OU) in Israel. They gathered at the beginning of August in Park Raanana for a celebratory event bringing together participants from 17 Israel programs organized by the OU’s NCSY. The event, featuring a concert by Mordechai Shapiro, was the largest gathering of NCSYers in one location in Israel and was designed to salute Jewish unity and strengthen bonds between diaspora youth and the Jewish state.
Allen Fagin, CEO of the Orthodox Union, said, “The real story here is how this event truly exemplifies Jewish unity and the potential to bring together Jews from different communities and levels of observance to celebrate a common ideal.”
Jacob Winters, a junior from Deal, participated in the Yad B’Yad program which brings together teens and participants with special needs. “I have never been to Israel before and as soon as I got to Jerusalem I felt a connection go through my body that was like nothing I have ever felt before,” he said. “At first I was skeptical about going to Israel and now I never want to leave.”
Samantha Fern of Livingston also attended the Park Raanana event. “I think people can’t really understand their Jewish identity until they come to the place of the Jewish people,” she said. “Everything here just comes to life and there’s so much meaning behind everything.”
NCSY offers 17 different summer programs in Israel, each geared to a different interest and intended for students of differing levels of observance.